Credit: Alias 0591 / Flickr

A biotech firm is to start producing fake rhino horns to collapse to market for real rhino horns and thereby protect the species from extinction.

It is a great idea, but until now it has been impossible to implement due to the obvious reason, the fake horns need to be indistinguishable from the real deal.

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The San Francisco based biotechnology company Pembient will use 3D printers to make the rhinoceros horns with the same genetic characteristics as real horns. Pembient has mixed keratin with DNA from rhinos to a powder which is then printed and the resulting artificial horns are genetically and spectrographically similar to real rhino horns.

The plan is then to sell these cheaper artificial horns on a large scale on the Chinese market, essentially flood the market where the demand is the largest.

The price will be one eight of what real horns costs and this will cause prices to drop, and the value of real horns still attached to living rhinos to decrease.

The poachers will be undercut and the risks of poaching will eventually outweigh the potential benefits when prices continue to drop. The species will thereby be protected.

The market for rhino horn is driven by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners who consider the horn an effective and even life-saving medicine. Science does however not support any medical benefits.

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Pembient
Sequencing the Black Rhinoceros Genome
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